Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group unveiled its Project Jacquard initiative at Google I/O last week. The goal of the project is to invisibly integrate computers into wearables and other materials, objects, furniture, and more. The idea is that everyday items could be converted to interactive surfaces with the introduction of touch-sensitive fabric. The objects would then transmit info to a smartphone or other device via Wi-Fi. The company’s first partner is Levi Strauss, which is interested in creating jeans that fit into our digital lives.
“Project Jacquard engineers had to weave conductive yarns into common textiles,” explains Popular Science. “The yarn created for Project Jacquard combines ultra-thin metallic alloys and common synthetic yarn such as cotton, polyester or silk. The end result is a fabric that’s strong enough to be used in common pieces of clothing and home interior items.”
Interaction would be enabled by touch interactions and various gestures through a system of button-size computer components and sensors.
“When you tap, or swipe, or draw, it acts precisely like a touchscreen,” notes The Verge. “It turns on the music, it draws a line on a screen, it changes the color of the Hue lights.”
Smart clothing is not an original idea, as the emerging wearables market continues to experiment with new approaches to connecting with our personal devices, but Google’s smart fabric concept could prove to be the next step, especially if it convinces developers to create related apps. Levi Strauss has yet to provide specifics about manufacturing smart jeans or other clothing.
ATAP also announced Project Silo at Google I/O, the company’s effort to simplify interacting with the tiny screens of wearables by introducing a miniature radar system that senses hand gestures. The research group created a radar system about the size of a microSD card that can send a signal to capture hand motions.
“The tiny radar could let people control tiny-screen devices without having to touch them,” reports The Wall Street Journal. For example, the system “transforms a twisting motion between thumb and forefinger into commands to scroll up and down a smartwatch’s screen.”
The system will be available for developers later this year.
Levi’s Wants to Put Google’s Touch-Sensitive Fabric Inside Your Jeans, The Verge, 5/29/15
Google is Partnering with Levi’s to Create Smart Pants That Can Control Your Phone, Business Insider, 5/29/15
Google Wants to Turn Your Clothes Into a Computer, The New York Times, 5/29/15